The Perdana Hall of the Putrajaya International Convention Centre (PICC) was resplendent in the theme colours of black, gold and red at the recent 20th Malaysia Tourism Awards 2016/2017.
Held once every two years, the prestigious event attracted over 1,200 guests from Malaysia and overseas, including ministers, tourism industry players and members of the media.
As guests walked through the entrance of the hall, they were greeted by the sounds and sights of a simulated rainforest, and led into a grand theatre-style seating arrangement. The National Symphony Orchestra provided musical accompaniment for the ceremony, while emcees Daphne Iking and Rahim Rahman kept the audience’s rapt attention throughout the event.
“The awards celebrate Malaysia’s very own stars of the tourism industry, people who have made outstanding contributions to promote Malaysia as a premiere tourism destination in the world,” Minister of Tourism and Culture Malaysia Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz said during his speech.
According to him, Malaysia recorded a total of 26.8 million international visitors with tourist receipts of RM82.1bil for 2016. Domestic tourism was also boosted with a total of 189.3 million domestic visitors and an expenditure of RM74.8bil for 2016.
“These were two challenging years which saw rising regional competition and limited resources, but it was heartwarming to see all industry players come together to overcome the situation,” he added.
New ways to improve
Nazri said that the Ministry of Tourism and Culture is constantly seeking new ways to improve all its tourism offerings and as such, two new categories have been introduced for this edition of the awards: Best Entertainment Spot and Best Airline. This is to acknowledge the private sector’s efforts in fulfilling the tourism goals of the nation.
The two new categories introduced for the 20th edition of the awards were won by Marini’s On 57 (Best Entertainment Spot), Cathay Dragon (Best Airline – International), and AirAsia (Best Airline – local).
The event was also attended by Melaka Chief Minister Datuk Seri Idris Haron and his wife Datin Seri Fadilah Abdullah, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Sabah Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun, Deputy Minister of Tourism and Culture Malaysia Datuk Mas Ermieyati Samsudin, Secretary-General Ministry of Tourism and Culture Malaysia Datuk Rashidi Hasbullah, Tourism Malaysia board chairman Datuk Dr Siew Ka Wei and Tourism Malaysia Director-General Datuk Seri Mirza Mohammad Taiyab.
The awards comprised 14 categories: Best Local Tour Operator, Best Foreign Tour Operator, Best Tourism Article, Best Travel Documentary and TV Commercial on Malaysia, Best Tourist Attraction, Most Innovative Tour Package, Best Hotel Services, Best Tourist Guide, Best Shopping Centre, Best Homestay, Innovative Restaurant, Best Spa, Best Entertainment Spot, and Best Airline. The were also 52 sub-categories under these awards.
Recognising the best
A total of 665 nominations were received by the Ministry of Tourism and Culture and 56 awards were presented, recognising those who have supported the industry’s continuous growth and development. They include travel operators who diligently marketed Malaysia to international customers, and members of the media who promoted Malaysia through their publications.
There were also four special awards presented to two individuals and two organisations, personally selected by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Tourism and Culture for their exceptional contributions in the industry.
The Prime Minister’s Award went to Datuk Seri Idris Haron and Sunway Group, while the Minister’s Award went to Anthony Wong and The Haven Ipoh.
Idris, who expressed his appreciation for the award, said: “Melaka is one of the most popular destinations in Asia during 2016 and 2017. In fact, Lonely Planet ranked Melaka as one of the top 10 best destinations to visit in Asia. No visit to Malaysia is complete if you don’t visit Melaka, and we’d like to welcome all tourists, both local and international, to visit.”
Wong said, “Tourism needs continuous innovation, upgrading, and technology. To keep up with the rest of the world, we must put in more effort and we can’t just operate business as usual. More collaborations are needed. We need to work together with academia and the Government. We need to work together with architects and engineers to make businesses more sustainable.”
Wong is the group managing director of AOS Tourism & Hospitality Group, which is involved in homestays, national park tours, hot air balloon rides, bicycling tours, rafting tours, four-wheel-drive adventures, trekking, eco-tourism, business events, green hotels and more.
Award winners were presented with an exquisite crystal trophy which comprised a trapezium base topped by a globe held by two triangular towers, and a certificate.
In-between the presentation, guests were entertained by two tourism ambassadors to Malaysia. Taiwanese singer Johnny Chiang Yu Heng, Malaysia’s tourism ambassador to China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea impressed guests with perfect renditions of Anak Kampung and Rasa Sayang.
Guests were also enchanted by Malaysia’s tourism ambassador to the United States and Britain, magician Kabir Khan Mohamad Reaz, who was born in Penang. Meanwhile, singer Dayang Nurfaizah performed some of her hits as well as a popular Whitney Houston tune.
The night culminated in a winners’ celebration at PICC. The Aseana percussion unit, a solo saxophonist and Aswara live band entertained guests as they enjoyed a buffet supper in true Malaysian style. Food stalls were set up around the banquet hall, offering local dishes such as nasi lemak, rendang, satay, char kuay teow and more.